Mr. Lorry says to Lucie Manette, "These are mere business relations, miss; there is no friendship in them; … I have no feelings; I am a mere machine."
Why is this statement from A Tale of Two Cities ironic?
Mr. Lorry's initial introduction of himself as the representative of Tellson's Bank, a man who is merely a business "machine" impersonally obeying orders is ironic because he becomes intimately involved with the Manette family.
Before the narrative begins, as a representative of the Paris branch of Tellson's Bank, Mr. Lorry is the one who has carried the infant Lucie Manette to safety in England. Then, in Chapter IV of Book the First, Lorry tells Miss Manette that he has "a business charge to acquit myself of." He explains that a Doctor Manette married an English woman and he was one of the trustees. Further, he explains that his relationship was "confidential" with Dr. Manette. Interestingly, when Miss Manette becomes disconcerted as she recognizes Mr. Lorry's "story" as the history of her father, the kind, fatherly Mr. Lorry takes her hand and kisses it tenderly. Yet, he insists that he has no time for feelings, although he
looked down, with an admiring pity, on the flowing golden hair; as if he pictured to himself that it might have been already tinged with grey.
When he relays the message to Miss Manette that her father is still alive. Lucie faints to the dismay and worry of Mr. Lorry; but his dismay turns to fear when the loyal guard Miss Pross hurling accusations at him.
Becoming the comforter and protector of Lucie Manette, Mr. Lorry reunites her to her prison-worn father, who is slightly delusional, believing himself a shoemaker. But, when he sees the golden hair of his daughter, so like that of her mother, Manette pulls from his neck a locket of his wife's a is "recalled to life." Later, Dr. Manette accompanies his daughter to England where Lucy marries Charles Darnay, after having met him on the Dover coach; later, the three reside in Soho. There, Jarvis Lorry is a frequent visitor and becomes the friend and confidant of Alexandre Manette. When, for instance, the physician reverts to his methodical shoemaking in consequence of his torture in the Bastille for 14 years, Mr. Lorry questions him indirectly and kindly about what the doctor would do for a patient who had such compulsive behavior. In this way, Manette becomes pro-active in his own cure and is saved any embarrassment.
Always loyal to the Manette family whom he has grown to love and become a part of, Jarvis Lorry, after having gone back to England and his work, finds himself returning during the fiery days of the French Revolution because he must recover valuable bank documents. While there, however, Mr. Lorry becomes involved in the gravity of the conviction of Lucie's husband Charles who has been imprisoned on the charge of being an Evremonde and the son of a malevolent aristocrat responsible for the deaths of peasants and the subsequent imprisonment of Dr. Manette. Fearing for his beloved Manettes, Mr. Lorry engages an inconspicuous apartment for Lucie and her children, and he assigns his messenger and bodyguard, Jerry Cruncher, to watch over them. Nevertheless, the nefarious Madame Defarge, bent upon revenge on the Evremonde family, accompanies her husband when he delivers a message from his former master, Dr. Manette. While they are there, the naive Lucie implores Mme. Defarge to do whatever she can for Charles [the son of the man whose twin killed her sister and brother].
After Charles is released for a while, another accuser places him back in La Force. Mr. Lorry, along with Sidney Carton question John Barsad, now a turnkey at the prison, but formerly a spy interrogated at Darnay's trial back in England years before. Their business finished, Carton and Lorry come out of the prison. The "man of business" cries at the hopelessness of the situation for those he loves. But, Carton tells him not to weep for him; quickly, he inspires the old gentleman to valor, explaining how Mr. Lorry can get the Darnays out of Paris. "Mr. Lorry caught the flame, and was as quick as youth."
In his most heroic moment
[I]t is Jarvis Lorry who has alighted and stands with his hand on the coach door, replying successfully to a group of officials
who demand papers and ask questions about the occupants, but let them pass. This "man of business" has now become the protector of the lives of the Manette/ Darnay family.